Tony HewsonOn a beautiful warm, sunny Sunday in October, Simon Norwood (Hereford Tri) and I took part in the annual Johnny Helms Memorial 2-up Grand Prix des Gentlemen time trial over a 21 miles, 4 laps course in Cheshire. (photo shows us braking for a left hand turn.) The event commemorates JH who for 47 years until he died was the cartoonist for “Cycling Weekly” and much revered for his comic depiction of cycling club life. The race is by invitation only and it’s mainly, though not exclusively, “Golden Oldies” like myself who get invited (At almost 80, I was the oldest competitor this year). The format is for a younger rider to pace the elder until the last mile when the elder must take over and lead to the finishing line. Believe me, into a headwind, that mile can seem a very long way.

This is something of an exhibition race and not to be taken too seriously, but despite that you always feel you want to do your best without putting your health at risk by overdoing it. In my case, I hadn’t raced regularly on a bike for over twenty years and gave up competitive running in 2008, so obviously this was something I had to seriously prepare for by stepping out of my comfort zone and tuning up the poor old cardio-vascular system with some speed-work.  What a shock to the system that was! These special training rides were with another partner, Ron, as Simon was otherwise engaged with something I vaguely remember being called working for a living. In addition I had to set myself a reasonable target that took account of all the circumstances.

In the eventuality, we completed the race at my target average speed of 20mph, so I was quite content with that. Though next to last on actual time, we were placed much higher when my age handicap allowance was taken into account.

My thanks go to Simon for stepping in to help at the last moment when my regular partner became unavailable. It was no easy task for him on the day having to reduce his normal racing speed by about 5 mph to accommodate me!

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